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The second language classroom in Qatar also differs considerably from those in other countries, not only in learner composition, but also with regard to motivation and perspective. As mentioned before, the lecturers at the language centre are all native English speakers, but from different English speaking countries, like America, Australia, Canada, England and South Africa. Most of the lecturers are monolingual English speakers, but not all of them are experienced in teaching multicultural learners. Ogbu (1988:14) and Pajares (1992) note that the cultural differences and beliefs between lecturers and learners are often at odds with one another, preventing learning.
Lecturers should have prior knowledge of the situation in order for them to be effective as English second or foreign language teachers.
The learners, on the other hand, are from a multitude of countries from around the world, and from different cultural and religious backgrounds, as explained in section 2.2.
Learners enrol for English language classes for different reasons. Some enrol because they are required to do so in order to be promoted at work, to be able to attend a university abroad, to be able to communicate to colleagues, and a small group enrol simply because they are bored and need something to do to fill the long summer vacations. Lecturers quite often shy away or neglect to create an awareness of cultural differences within the classroom for various reasons such as these: inexperience about acknowledging it, avoiding negative learner attitudes, or because their main concern is English acquisition by non-native speakers. Lecturers should be more culturally aware and gain insight into the cultures and backgrounds of learners when teaching English as a second or foreign language to adult learners.
2.8.2 Learners’ culture
The English teaching environment in the language classroom in Qatar is very unique, because of the varying nationalities of the learners. One classroom might be from eight different nationalities, or a classroom with just Qatari men, or Qatari ladies, or a classroom with men or ladies, all Arabic speaking, but from the various Arabic speaking countries around the world. These language learners arrive at the centre to acquire English as a second language. Each of these learners, male or female, is already proficient in his or her native language, and has certain academic abilities, experiences and interests he or she brings with to the classroom. Some of the learners have very supportive home environments for language acquisition and development, with access to modern technology to support their learning. However, not all learners are that fortunate; those who are not so fortunate; will rely on motivation and encouragement from the lecturer in order for language acquisition to be effective. The relationship between the culture and background of the English language learner and the culture of the community in which the learning takes place, might affect the adult language learners’ attitude and motivation towards learning.
In chapter two, the focus was on the theoretical exposition of gender differences when teaching English as a second language to learners in Qatar. Skehan (1989:168) notes that various factors affect the learning of a second or foreign language, such as intelligence, motivation, attitude, age, gender, personality and anxiety. Although various studies have researched individual groups, very few have however, explored the group as a whole with regard to gender differences in cognitive styles, motivation towards, strategies utilized and anxieties experienced during English second language acquisition.
The above gave me the reason to further explore the use and interaction of all four as a group during acquisition of English as a second language.
With the internationalization and complexity of a globalized world economy, the learning of English could become the necessary communication tool to bridge the ever growing gap. This research built on existing research results about issues pertaining to English second language acquisition by adult learners, taking gender differences into account.
In the next chapter, the research design and methodology are discussed.
THE RESEARCH, METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN
3.1 Introduction This chapter is about the processes implemented to carry out the research, namely the research design, methodologies used and the methods followed to select the participants, who provided various types of data needed to answer the research questions. The specific methodology to be used was discussed in section 1.5.1 of chapter one. According to Adler et al. (1989:61) “choosing a methodology determines what we can study as well as the range of possible results and conclusions.” Exploring gender differences in English language acquisition of adults learners in Qatar are both the aims and objectives of this study and this fact was discussed in detail in chapter one at section 1.4.
3.1.1 Target population and sampling The target population for the study was as discussed in subsection 18.104.22.168 of chapter one and adult male and female English language learners at the language centre, formed part of this group. Barker (2003:380 as referred to by Strydom 2011:224) describes a sample as “a small portion of the total set of objects, events or persons from which a representative selection is made.” According to McMillan and Schumacher (2010:327in a case study design, a sample is a selection of the population it is drawn from in order to focus on a phenomenon selected by a researcher to obtain an in-depth understanding, irrespective of the sites, participants or documents studied, (see subsection 22.214.171.124).
126.96.36.199 Purposive sampling
Strydom (2011:232) notes that purposive sampling “is based entirely on the judgement of the researcher, in that a sample is composed of elements that contain the most characteristic, representative or typical attributes of the population that serve the purpose of the study” and following these, participants were selected using the
• The five classroom observations were selected because they provided the researcher with the opportunity to observe adult learners being taught English as a second or foreign language in as natural a setting as possible. The researcher’s attention was focussed on language acquisition by studying the learners’ cognitive processes, strategies they employed, their motivation towards studying English and anxieties experienced while learning English as a language.
• The participants for the focus group interviews were selected because they were all adults learning English as a second language and were all willing to engage in English conversation to express their feelings about language acquisition. These learners were from different nationalities, including learners from the local Arabic population.
• The individual interviews with the three lecturers who were selected because they all had four years or more experience of teaching English as a foreign language and were qualified TEFL lecturers. They were handpicked as Cohen and Manion (2001:113) assert, on the basis of their typicality.
The British lady had been teaching English for eight years and was particularly knowledgeable in dealing and assessing adult learners from various nationalities acquiring English.
The second British lady had more than thirty years TEFL experience. She had degree in Social Anthropology.
The third interview with the American gentleman who was selected because he was also fluent in Arabic and could clarify expressions by learners perhaps not otherwise understood in the language learning situation. Arabic adult learners, especially males, felt more comfortable in giving him a direct answer to certain questions.
• The participants who formed part of the individual interviews with learners, were three adult men and three adult ladies, who were at a higher level of English language acquisition and were selected because of their ability to verbalise their thoughts and feelings clearly and more precisely.
3.2 Methods of data collection The data collected for this study started in 2012 and continued into 2013. Salkind (2012:214) notes that a researcher can employ a variety of techniques and approaches for data collection from participants.
The data for this study was collected using:
3.2.1 Observations as an instrument of data collection Strydom (2011:330) suggests the following definition of participant observation, “Participant observation can be described as a qualitative research procedure that studies the natural and everyday set-up in a particular community or situation”, (see section 188.8.131.52).
For this study, I was in some ways guided by Sapsford and Jupp (1996:58) who suggest that observation may be used in the beginning stages of a research project to explore a certain area, which will later be studied more in-depth by employing other methods.
Strydom (2011:331) refers to Druckman (2005:236-253), Unrau (2005:236-243) and Monette et al. (2005:228-232) who are of the opinion that “the steps in the process of participant observation are of a more holistic nature and are more intertwined than those of quantitative research.” The five classrooms observed, were selected because the learners were all adult males and females from various nationalities acquiring English as a second or foreign language as described in subsection 184.108.40.206. This provided the researcher with the opportunity to observe the learners, as well as the lecturers with regard to finding answers to the research questions. These classroom observations were carried out shortly before the researcher commenced with interviews and therefore helped her identify other issues needing to be explored further. To structure the observations, the researcher designed her own checklist, based partly on her own understanding of andragogy, while keeping the aims and objectives of the study in mind. While sticking to the checklist, additional notes on interesting happenings within the classroom were jotted down to compliment the information elicited by means of the checklist. Included in the checklist (see
Appendix A) were the following:
• Cognitive styles (global, analytic, auditory, visual).
• Motivation (Instrumental or integrative).
• Learning strategies.
• Teaching methods.
Five classes with adult English second or foreign language learners were observed. Each class was observed for between thirty minutes to an hour during the language lessons.
These observations were conducted at different times during a period of four weeks.
Convenience sampling, as Salkind (2012:103) refers, was used, as it was a very convenient way to select a sample and these learners were accessible, as described in subsection 220.127.116.11.
The first class consisted of fourteen adult male and female learners and they were from seven nationalities, including learners from Belarus, Hungary, Iran, Korea, Qatar, Spain and Yemen and the lecturer was from England. Both men and women asked a lot of questions to clarify instructions from the lecturer. All the learners appeared to be motivated to acquire proficiency in English. About the learning strategies employed, they took a lot of notes to correct mistakes and displayed a keenness to correct their own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others; this facilitated their learning process.
The men discussed difficult words and had difficulty in pronouncing words like “Thai food” and “recipe”. The learners interacted well and asked lots of questions and even directed one to the researcher. They showed no anxiety towards learning, but perhaps they were apprehension of the presence of the researcher.
The second classroom contained all Arabic speaking male and female learners, from Egypt, Qatar and Yemen, and the lecturer was from South Africa. The aim of the lesson for the day was explaining the use of Present Continuous Passive tense, with the example: “The city is being polluted by smoke from the factories”. All the learners took notes and asked for verification when work was not fully understood. They were able to correct their own and the mistakes of others when asked to write sentences on the board in front of the entire class. The ladies were reading a faster than the men and had a better comprehension of what they read than men.
The third class was an all male Arabic speaking class. The learners were from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Sudan and Tunisia, with the lecturer from England. They understood the instructions given to them about the use of a dictionary to assist their learning. The men all expressed that their motivation towards learning was to get a good job, for global conversation and to be able to study at a university. When completing a written task about matching the information in section A with the one in section B, the learners used numbers only and had to be reminded by the lecturer to write out the sentence in full, so as to reinforce the information and also to learn to be careful and accurate.
The fourth classroom observation was a classroom with all Arabic speaking ladies from various countries and the lecturer was from Canada. The lecture for the day was on the use of the phrase: “Is it this one, or that one”. When prompted by the lecturer about their motivation towards language acquisition, one lady indicated that she was studying English in order to go to university; another one said her father would give her gifts for good marks, and the other stated she will reward herself for good marks by buying a new handbag. The ladies were all very quiet, but participated in classroom activities when required to do so. They were good at note taking and regularly asked for clarification of instructions.